To get better at something we consider challenging, we have to practice. You know what’s hard for me in spiritual direction? Exploring with a client ways to deepen in relationship with God when they are truly and unavoidably busy. Spiritual directors are not “fixers,” yet I’m always tempted to suggest ways to squeeze more time out of a packed person’s day. Never, ever have my suggestions on this — when I gave them — worked. I’m especially cautious about doing this to caregivers of people who are ill, elderly, disabled or who have young children in their lives.
As I was reading Mirabai Starr’s amazing book, Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics, I came across her beautiful reflection on this. She tells the story of her friend Asha, mother to four girls, who came to the conclusion that “unless she focused on parenting as a spiritual practice, she would have no spiritual life.” (p 122) Overworked people could substitute any number of responsibilities for the word “parenting” in that statement.
That’s the reality! If we say that all of life is spiritual, then the practice of daily life is a good part of our spiritual practice. For caregivers, the act of giving unconditional love to your loved one has to connect you to God. It just has to! Especially since those of us who are Christians constantly refer to God as Comforter, Restorer, Father and Mother.
What part of your life do you need to begin to see and experience as spiritual practice? Is it cooking a healthy meal? Taking an afternoon walk? Sharing tea with a friend? Or maybe even staring at the wall when you are too tired to do anything but.
I have always loved how spiritual director and storyteller Mark Yaconelli looks at it. He is fond of asking people what daily activities really get them excited? Then when they name it, he says, “go and do that.” Do it with all the exuberance and life you have.
I’m convinced that’s the kind of practice that makes the Divine One happy.
Teresa Blythe is a Phoenix based spiritual director, author and trainer of apprentice spiritual directors. To learn more about spiritual direction, check out her book Spiritual Direction 101. For a primer on spiritual practices, look at her first book, 50 Ways to Pray. Her website www.teresablythe.net contains a lot of information about the art and practice of spiritual direction.